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“R-right! Let’s go get your rewards! Jenny, you mind if I reprise my old post for this part? Your details haven’t been recorded in the hub anyway…”

As Ernst addressed Jenny hesitantly, he only got a glare in reply. Jenny was busily checking her butterfly from head to toe to make sure that it hadn’t gotten injured.

“Great! I’ll find you later then…”

Taking it as a ‘yes’, Ernst quickly held Aaron’s shoulders and led him away while Woof laughed out loud and followed.

Of course, it was laughing at the foolish butterfly which had attempted to escape them by flying in the air.

If it knew that they usually hunted low-flying Teras for food, it wouldn’t have even tried in the first place.

The crowd, on the other hand, had also stopped cheering on seeing Jenny’s terrifying expression. Now that the Challenge was done, they dispersed and went back to their houses while excitedly discussing the details of the match.

They had never heard or seen a Tera like this husky, and, so far, it hadn’t even displayed any special attacks.

Hence, they tried to speculate what its Tera ability might be.

Could it be increased strength? Increased agility? Increased bite strength?

It was always fascinating to find a new Tera and find out everything about it, so this became a hot topic of gossip in the village.

Still, no one spoke about Jenny losing. This wasn’t out of fear- a Hamlet Chief losing wasn’t something shameful at all. After all, they existed to encourage and reward capable people on the Path to the Stars.

In this endeavor, losses were to be expected.

Soon enough, Aaron was back in the metallic room. Now that he was here, again, he decided to ask a question he had gotten the last time.

“What is body potential?”, he asked, referring to the field in the ID and Ascender Card that was filled with question marks.

“Oh, that? Well, body potential is a measure of how much fast an Integrated Core can absorb Energy. Those with higher potential are able to progress faster on any path they choose, as they will have more Energy at their disposal to use as they see fit.”

Seeing Aaron widen his eyes, Ernst sighed and continued.

“Yes, it is that important. Body Potential is almost the same for most humans, except for a few anomalies who are heralded as ‘geniuses’. These people have the easiest time. Well, body potential can still be increased with the use of a few specific items, but all of these items are exceedingly rare and precious. Body potential can only be judged after someone integrated with a Core and allows it to absorb Energy. That’s why there are question marks in that field. Now…are you ready to Integrate with your first Core?”

Aaron was still digesting the information about this all-important factor. It reminded him of how some Teras had terrifying abilities from birth, while others were weak and had to work very hard just to survive.

Yet, when he heard the last sentence, he snapped his head up and nodded.

He had been looking forward to this ever since he had discovered that integrating with a Core would allow one to grow stronger along with their Tera.

Strength was necessary to march forward, and no one knew this more clearly than Woof and Aaron.

In fact, he had considered whether he should get one before the match, but he hadn’t said anything.

Coincidentally, Ernst addressed that.

“Cores give benefits over the long run, so I didn’t suggest Integrating with one before you won. Also, as part of your reward for defeating the Skystead Hamlet Chief, you’ll be receiving an extra Core. I thought you might want to Integrate with them both at once to save time.”

Seeing the former Chief’s thoughtfulness, Aaron couldn’t help but smile.

He had to admit that it felt pretty good when someone else, other than Woof, was thinking about him and helping him.

Yes, he would definitely never forget this debt.

“Now then, let’s see what rewards you’ll be getting. Give me your Ascender card.”

As Aaron handed over the shining card, Ernst inserted it into a rectangular hole on one wall and said, “Hub, this is Ernst. This Ascender has won against the present Skystead Hamlet Chief. Please record that, and give him his rewards. Also add in his first Core, too, as he just registered.”

The female voice spoke up.

“Ex-Chief Ernst- message confirmed. Rewards: 3.”

This made Ernst raise his eyebrow. Weren’t there only supposed to be two?

Yet, the next moment, his eyes lit up with excitement.

“Mass Production of Ascender Assistant has been successful. As such, deployment has been authorized for all Ascenders who have stepped foot on the path. Stand by to receive.”

“Kid, you’re lucky! The A.A is famous for giving an edge to all Ascenders on their journey! I never thought that…”

“This message was sent 3 weeks ago. The Chief missed the message.”

“Oh, right.”

Ernst smiled consciously, as he did have a habit of forgetting certain things.

Well, it wasn’t often that an Ascender won against him. In the last three weeks, there had only been losers.

So, he hadn’t bothered to check any changes in rewards.
An awkward silence followed, after which a faint rumbling was heard from another wall.

Here, there was a square-shaped thick door that glowed briefly before opening.

Inside were 3 items:

A velvet pouch, a fingernail-sized black, cubical object and a book with red leather.

“Come and take them! These are all yours!”

With growing excitement, Aaron walked up the vault and retrieved the three items.

The moment his hand entered the vault, another beam of light scanned him, as if to check if he really was the one who was supposed to get the rewards.

As Aaron held the velvet pouch, he could feel two items inside, which he recognized to be Cores.

As for the book, its title read ‘Basic Technique for All Classes- Part 1’.

Only the small, black cube looked unremarkable, but Ernst walked up and said, “May I?”

Shrugging, Aaron handed it over, while Ernst said, “Now, don’t move too much. And don’t bolt, again.”

Aaron wondered why the Chief was saying that, but the next moment, his jaw almost dropped to the floor while he jumped into the air with shock.

The former Chief had walked forward and placed the cube on the nape of his neck, right where his spine began.

The cube stuck on to Aaron, giving him a cold feeling, but it was what happened after that that had elicited Aaron’s extreme reaction.

He heard the same female voice as the hub, but, this time, it was coming from inside his head.

“Ascender Assistant: A.A is booting up. DNA analyzed. No red flags have been raised.”

"Congratulations on taking your first, solid step onto the Path to the Stars! I am your Ascender Assistant, or, in short, your A.A. I have been designed and deployed by the World Government to help aspiring Ascenders like you on their journey! I can analyze all Teras you come across that are in my database. Even if I do not recognize a certain Tera, I am equipped with a database of all pre-apocalyptic animal life so that similarities can be assessed! I can also lead you to where your next Challenge should be! I also have many, many more functions!The World Government thanks you for stepping onto the Path!"

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About the author

KillerHemboy

Bio: I'm an aspiring author who fell in love with writing the moment I wrote my first story.
Most Notable Work: World Domination System, an 800,000 word ongoing fantasy novel which can be found at https://www.webnovel.com/book/11413811606356705/World-Domination-System

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